Why we will be parading with pride in pink

16/04/2015

The Pink Ladies hope that 2,000 women will turn up for their Sunset Coastal Walk in June to raise funds and show support for the charity that does so much for women with breast cancer. Jill Chadwick met three women, two of them sisters, who talk about how the group has helped them........

FIVE years ago Angela Horsepool discovered that a lump she had dismissed as ‘nothing to be concerned about’ was cancerous.

She had a mastectomy followed by courses of chemotherapy and radiotherapy and today she is a calm advocate for simply getting on with life and living it to the full.

‘I was 48 when I was diagnosed and it came as a bit of a shock as I really thought there was nothing to worry about. The doctor was reassuring but advised me to have the lump checked out. It was found to be grade two breast cancer and it had spread to some of my lymph nodes, so I also had a lot of those taken out too.’

Angela is relaxed and matter of fact about her treatment experiences and says that her time spent in Southampton having radiotherapy was a surprisingly happy one.

‘It sounds odd to say this but being over there gave me the chance to recover without any distractions. I had a family at home, but in Southampton there was nothing and nobody else to worry about. I could have my radiotherapy in the morning then spend time in the afternoon shopping and walking and take time to get better at my own pace.’

Angela explains that Channel Island patients stay at Jury’s Inn, a hotel in the centre of Southampton, so there was a ready-made support group in place.

‘I made some brilliant friends as we were all there for the same reason, all getting treatment and recovering from cancer.

‘There were men and women all supporting one another because you know how each of you are feeling.’

She is keen to make it clear that all cancers are different, and all treatments do vary considerably.

‘I don’t think that people realise there are many different types of cancer and your treatments are tailor-made for you. Everyone is looked at differently, case by case.

‘I won’t lie, the chemotherapy was hard, but I felt supported throughout my treatment and the help I had from the Pink Ladies was amazing.

‘I managed to work during the first two courses of chemotherapy and my company, Active Group, were brilliant and very supportive.

‘You are made aware of the Pink Ladies early on. I was lucky to be helped by Amanda Brown, a Pink Lady who had gone through breast cancer, and she kindly supported me through it too.

‘When my sister Carol was diagnosed a few years later, I felt able to do the same for her.’

When women are diagnosed, the Pink Ladies support group is not allowed to contact them directly because of data protection, but the hospital staff put them on the radar of the patients and supply contact details and information for those who feel they want to be supported.

‘I received the Pink Ladies goody bag, which had all sorts of thoughtful, useful things like peppermints, as you can get a metallic taste in your mouth during the treatment, and lip salve for dry lips. It just helped me to feel that I was supported.

‘I also now attend the monthly meetings at St Martin’s Community Centre and it’s a positive and fun gathering. You can share your experiences, provide help and basically be there for other people who are going through, or have gone through, what you have.’

Angela says that through the Pink Ladies and the funds they raise from events such as the Sunset Coastal Walk, breast cancer patients are offered all sorts of lovely treats like free aromatherapy massages and reflexology taster sessions.

‘The Pink Ladies will pay for these sessions and I found it relaxing and helpful and embraced most things the unit offered.

‘There are also the Can Move exercise sessions and, more recently, the Can Dance sessions at the PEH have been introduced. They give you a focus too.’

Angela is still receiving treatment for her cancer and has not yet had reconstructive surgery, though she is looking forward to this final step and to being able to slip into a swimsuit without feeling self-conscious.

‘I’m still taking Tamoxifen and as I had quite a few lymph nodes taken out I am still seeing the lymphedema nurse, but five years down the line I feel great and happy to be a part of the Pink Ladies organisation.

‘The group offers so much support to women at a time when you most need it. I was in shock when I had my diagnosis, and when I left the unit I did feel a bit scared, but I hope that women reading this realise that you are not alone. The Pink Ladies are always there for you.’

Angela’s sister, Carol Brehaut, was about to celebrate her 50th birthday when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

‘I had taken early retirement and was looking forward to the next stage of life when I found a lump.

‘I thought it was just a gland, but because my sister had been diagnosed years earlier with breast cancer they decided to do a mammography there and then. It was just as well, because they found I had a shadow on the back wall of my breast – it was in a place I would not have felt a lump, and a biopsy showed it was cancerous. It was detected quite by chance and I’m lucky that it was.’

Carol was advised to have a lumpectomy followed by a targeted drug regime as the cancer was so aggressive.

‘I had treatment for a whole year every three weeks, including 18 rounds of Herceptin alongside chemotherapy and radiotherapy. It was a long stretch but I was helped through it every step of the way.

‘My sister was amazing and helped me throughout the treatment. She telephoned and texted me every day.

‘It was tough as I’m a single mother – her support meant so much to me and left me feeling that maybe I hadn’t been there for her enough when she was going through it.

‘Radiotherapy is a doddle, though towards the end I did have a burn under my breast that was uncomfortable and needed treating for a few weeks after I came home. I did find my taste buds changed during my chemotherapy. I found some foods tasted strange, for instance lettuce tasted salty and red wine made me sick. The good news is that we all tend to be able to still enjoy champagne!’

Carol says that most women going through chemotherapy will tell you that one of the most devastating things is losing your hair.

‘But it does grow back and you’re helped with wigs. I do believe that the process teaches you a lot about yourself and how not to let stupid, silly things get you down.’

Carol also praises the support of the Pink Ladies.

‘They know what you’re going through and what fears you have. They also offer you practical help.

‘Other cancer types don’t have the same level of support so we’re lucky that the Pink Ladies are so proactive.

‘When I was having my radiotherapy treatment in Southampton I received a beautiful bunch of Guernsey freesias from the Pink Ladies. It meant so much to me to receive such a lovely gift from women at home who knew how I was feeling and how the flowers would give me a lift.’

Last April Diana Knight found a lump in her breast and, as she had a sister, aunts and cousins who have been diagnosed with breast cancer, she was very aware of what this could mean.

‘I had found lumps before and been referred to the unit, but in the past they have always been benign. But because of my strong family history of breast cancer, when I found another lump I had a mammography and two biopsies that still proved inconclusive. Then I had an MRI scan which confirmed I had a six-centimetre tumour.’

Diana was advised to have chemotherapy to shrink it before having surgery.

‘I had six rounds of chemotherapy. Each treatment is individually tailored to suit your type of cancer and the multi-disciplinary team (including the surgeon, radiologist, and oncologist) meet to decide upon a treatment plan.’

At this time Diana met up with Carol and the women have supported one another ever since.

‘When I met Carol she’d had her surgery but I still hadn’t had mine. Some people have chemo first, others don’t, and it all depends on your type of cancer so there are no hard and fast rules.’

At first Diana hated losing her hair, though she admits that at the end she was just desperate for all of it to go: ‘I kept finding hair in everything; it got on my nerves so in a way it was a relief when it all went.

‘I also found that some foods tasted strange. I remember during my treatment my husband went out and bought me a huge punnet of strawberries, as I love them. He was so pleased, but then I took one bite and couldn’t eat them – they tasted sour and salty.’

But like Angela and Carol, Diana has come through the diagnosis and treatment with the strength and resolve to just get on and enjoy life.

‘I’m looking forward to having my reconstruction. It can be a problem finding clothes that fit well, so it will be so nice to be able to dress without having to worry.’

Diana and her friends are also full of praise for the unit’s new oncoplastic surgeon, Tom Fysh.

‘We’re able to have reconstructions done here and he’s amazing.

‘I think we’re all calmer and don’t let small things get us down. You simply take life day for day.

‘There’s no point getting into a state and worrying too much.’

THE Pink Ladies’ Sunset Coastal Walk takes place on Saturday 20 June.

There are two distances to choose from – the first 10.5-mile walk begins at Grandes Rocques at 6pm and there is the option of walking 3.5 miles, beginning at Bordeaux car park at 8pm.

Both finish at Market Square with an after-walk party for all, where food and drinks will be available and Abba Sensation will be performing on stage.

Pink Ladies organiser Doreen Le Poidevin explains that funds from the last walk, which took place in 2013, were used to help with the refurbishment of the new breast unit and that it is hoped this year’s proceeds will be used for much-needed equipment for the breast unit.

‘We hope to attract 2,000 women this year to dress up in pink and support us and the women of Guernsey,’ she said.

l Log on to www.pinkladies.org.gg or www.thisisguernsey.com for more details about this year’s walk and how to sign up.

 

REGISTRATION and sponsorship forms are available to download and print via the Pink Ladies’ website, www.pinkladies.org.gg, their Facebook page, Pink Ladies Guernsey, and the Guernsey Press website, www.guernseypress.com.

Forms will also be available at the Guernsey Press reception in Braye Road, Curves Fitness Studio, Breast Care Unit PEH, Bulstrode Oncology Unit, Friquet Garden Centre, Aladdin’s Cave, Forest Stores, Market Bistro, Fletchersports on the Bridge and in Town, Stonelakes on the Bridge and Sandpiper outlets: Cobo Food Hall, Iceland at Admiral Park and St Martin’s, L’Islet Food Hall, St Peter’s Food Hall, Wine Warehouse in St Martin’s, Pasty Presto, Pollet Food Hall, Costa Coffee in the Pollet and Arcade, Hotel Chocolat and Crew Clothing Co.

The forms will also appear in next week’s edition of The Globe.


Article and picture courtesy of the Guernsey Press & Star



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